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Kilburn White Horse

Kilburn White Horse, Yorkshire

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It is known by various local place names, and this has caused some confusion, leading to claims that there is more than one white horse in the area. A cliff nearby known as White Mare Cliff may have contributed to this confusion.

  Photo by Howard Morland

This large horse, on a steep SSW facing slope, near the top of the southern flank of Sutton Bank, near Roulston Scarn the Hambleton Hills, just north of Kilburn village.

Clearly visible from some distance, particularly from the East Coast main railway line south of Thirsk and from the A1 near Kilburn. The best ground view is from two benches situated just inside the village boundary, marked by a sign near Stockings house on the road from Balk. This elevated position allows the best overall view of the horse although slightly further than ideal.

A car park is provided below the white horse and there is a footpath ascending past it and crossing immediately above it. The view from the footpath is said to be magnificent. The car park is located on a steeply graded minor road between Kilburn village and the Visitor Centre on the Scarborough main road, and the best view of the white horse itself is from the road on the Bagby, and benches are provided at the best vantage point to allow leisurely observation.

Created by removing soil to expose limestone rock underneath. The image is now formed of off-white limestone chips, but the steep gradient of the hillside, especially at the horse's breast and forelegs, have led to slumping and retention boards have been fixed to restrain this.

There are three versions to how this horse came about

  • It was created in November 1857, and some accounts state that it was done by school master John Hodgson and his pupils, together with local volunteers. A tablet erected at the car park below it reads, "The Kilburn 'White Horse' -- This figure was cut in 1857 on the initiative of Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn. In 1925 a restoration fund was subscribed by the readers of the Yorkshire Evening Post and the residue of 100 was invested to provide for the triennial grooming of the figure."

  • Morris Marples in his 1949 book gives Thomas Taylor the credit for being the prime mover: a native of Kilburn, he was a buyer for a London provision merchant, and he seems to have attended celebrations at Uffington White Horse in 1857, and he was inspired to give his home village a similar example. Thirty-three men were involved in cutting it, and 6 tons (6.1 metric tonnes) of lime were used to whiten the exposed rock.

The third, version perhaps tells the full story:-

  • It was finished on 4th November 1857 by local volunteers. School master John Hodgson (A friend of Thomas Taylor) and his pupils marked the horse. Thomas Taylor who was obviously influenced by the Wiltshire horses on his business travels south organised and paid for the construction of the horse. The original drawing was drawn by the artist Harrison Weir, and a copy with Hodgson's notes and measurements are still available, 31 men cleared the horse, the exposed scree was then whitewashed. There was no endowment to scour the horse and public funds were used to renew the horse after his death. The horse was badly damaged by a hail storm in 1896 and fell into disrepair after the First World War. It was renewed in 1925 following a campaign in the Yorkshire Evening Post which is commemorated by the memorial in the car park. The horse was kept in reasonable condition until it was covered in 1939. It was uncovered and whitened in 1946, a storm in 1949 almost destroyed the horse yet again. Local house furniture maker Robert Thompson was prominent in keeping the horse well groomed until his death in 1955. A white horse restoration fund was setup and later this became the White Horse Association, which looks after the horse today in conjunction with local farmers. The future of this horse has been secured but during its life it has nearly been lost many times like so many of the other figures.

Designed at 314 long and 228 high it is however currently 318 and 220 high

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Colin Grice


Keith Laverack

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Further information Grid



Kilburn White Horse, Yorkshire

Ceremonial County: Yorkshire

Grid Reference:

SE 514813

Map Link:

Ordnance survey SE514813

Aerial photo:

Google Aerial Photo  (best)



Best Times to Visit:

when light, and light is reflecting on horse.





Other useful websites:


Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Introduction to hillside figures

How to photograph hillside figures

Listing of hillside figures



Planning Grid


Kilburn White Horse, Yorkshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

To visit the horse, leave Kilburn village towards Bracken Hill, and follow the road up the steep hill, pass the first car park, carry on up the hill to the second car park from which the horse can easily be seen.


There is a memorial to the renovation of the horse in 1925 here next to the path that leads up the steep slope to the top which is about 250m above sea level. There is also easy access from the Cleveland Way which passes by the horse.


Car park on hill - see above



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

White Horse, Views

What to take:


Nature highlights:

Country Location







Opening times:

Open all the time



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Can be seen from the road, climbing to the horses may be more difficult.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: Ideal site for children
Dogs Allowed: No known restrictions

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: White Horse & Hillside Features Key:
Page Ref: kilburn Topic: Hillside Last Updated: 01/2012


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